1 Timothy 3:1-7; 2 Timothy 4:1-4: “How to Seek a Shepherd”
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the house of God?), not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those that are outside lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:1-8, NKJV).
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:1-4, NKJV).
Over the years, I have looked at the classified advertisements in our state denominational newspaper as well as other sources that present opportunities for pastoral ministry in the local churches. Here is my take on what the average church is looking for in a pastor:
Someone 30-39 years old or older, or no age preference listed.
Someone who has had 5-10 years of experience, or a recent seminary graduate
Someone with a family
Someone who adheres to the denominational statement of faith or confession based on Scripture
Someone with an advanced degree, such as a doctorate
Someone who can assume the responsibility of a “Chief Executive Officer,” so to speak
Someone who will give direction and vision to the church
Someone who has never been divorced (even if they weren’t saved when it happened)
Someone who is good with youth, senior adults, children (name your age group)
Someone trained in pastoral care and counseling
Constant availability at all hours
A mature prayer warrior
A comforter of the sick and afflicted (can’t have one without the other)
A seasoned preacher, teacher, scholar, listener who will keep office hours and set aside time for committees, visitation, special events, crises, marital conflicts, hospital visits, attend denominational meetings when scheduled, keep records of personnel… the list can go on.
No wonder that the average Southern Baptist pastoral tenure is less than three years and an estimated 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month, according to past trends and facts. Many pastors feel overworked, underappreciated, the subject of gossip and attack, failures in their roles as fathers and husbands, and subject to bouts of depression, often with no close friends or contacts with whom they can confide. Some turn to pornography, affairs, substance abuse, or have compete emotional breakdowns altogether. Many pastors suffer divorce, and some have abandoned the faith in these last days. It is said that only 5% of all seminary graduates are in the gospel ministry after five years or longer.
With facts like these, why do men go into the Christian ministry at all? As someone who answered that call years ago, I can say that it definitely was not a random career choice on my part. I had to serve the LORD, and it has cost me in many ways; but I do not regret the course or direction in which He placed me, although I had ideas of my own on how to do the LORD’S work, which He politely ignored and used me in spite of my good intentions. I’ve been a pastor, a chaplain, and a teacher over the past thirty-plus years, and now He has seen fit to put me in a place of instruction and comfort as a writer of Bible studies such as these study guides and aids for DVD Bible prophecy courses, and the maintaining of a personal website dedicated to exposition of the Scriptures.
As of now (and things could change), my days of active public ministry are at a conclusion due to fluctuating health concerns, but my service to Him continues, just in a new area where I can reach those who probably wouldn’t darken the door of a church. I feel that internet outreach and evangelism will continue to broaden and be used by the Lord Jesus as a tool to spread the Gospel where I couldn’t or wouldn’t be allowed to do in a public manner. God opens doors that we thought never existed. Glory be to His name.
Let’s now focus on what the apostle Paul is presenting to Timothy as far as pastoral qualifications go, as defined by the Word of God. Paul operated in the offices of teacher, preacher, pastor, and missionary as he spread the message of Jesus Christ across the realms of the Roman Empire. His adventures, experiences, and character molded him into the ideal mentor for Timothy and served as the example of what he wrote to him concerning this sacred and revered office, ultimately founded on the model and life of the Lord Jesus Christ. In these eight verses, Paul listed the essential requirements for anyone called in to the gospel ministry:
The pastor must be blameless. He should have no vices or habits that make him suspect to his flock.
He should have only one wife. This was an admonition against polygamy, which was a part of Roman culture. Divorce doesn’t sit well with any potential congregation.
He should be someone who doesn’t get emotionally unraveled and needs to maintain a serious attitude about his office and responsibility. There is no excuse for flippancy or immature attitude towards things that don’t go one’s way.
He needs to be on constant good behavior, and be a good example to everyone.
He needs to be hospitable. He should welcome his flock into his home when needed. His office should be a place where people feel welcome. However, he needs to be firm in informing them that he has to have set hours for study and solitude with God, with few exceptions for disturbance. Many pastors have their studies at home for this reason.
He is to be a teacher, having the ability and observable gift to explain the doctrines of the faith and Scripture to both new believer and seasoned saint. He should be teachable as well, studying the great works of godly Biblical scholars and the advice of the mature believer whose life and example is noteworthy.
He is to be sober and clear-minded.
He should never resort to violence in word and deed, but control his temper.
He should never be in the ministry for material gain and personal wealth.
He needs to have a gentle attitude towards the flock.
He should not want to pick verbal arguments with other people, especially minor matters of conviction and belief that don’t violate or compromise the whole of Scripture.
God FIRST, then the welfare and devotion to your family is of utmost importance. Everything else can wait or be rescheduled, if possible. You may have several pastorates, but only one family. Keep that in perspective.
The prime responsibility of any pastor towards his people is to feed them the Word of God without apology or restriction. If it gets them mad, it needed to be preached in the first place. He is also to protect his flock from all questionable and contrary teaching, no matter the source or person. He is to not be afraid to call out false teachers and personalities who do not line up with the standards of Scripture, no matter how popular or powerful they are. He is to rebuke anyone or any teaching that conflicts with the Word and to scrutinize anyone who speaks to his people. Their spiritual well-being is at stake.
All of this is to be approached with prayer, much study, and a firm reliance on the written Word. It might not win the serious man of God any celebrity points or wide favor, but the Lord Jesus Christ knows who His true Shepherds are, and will reward them, and all who serve Him accordingly (1 Corinthians 9:25; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:1-5; Matthew 25:23, 34; Mark 9:41).
Shepherds, hang tight. God’s got this.